When Mascots Go Bad

looklike thistle mascot

“Hello, I’m Kingsley. In June 2015 I moved to Glasgow, from sunny California, with Kingsford Capital to become Partick Thistle’s mascot… I hope all the Junior Jags will be looking forward to sharing cuddles and high fives with me all throughout the season.”

That was from the Thistle website by way of introduction to their cuddly new mascot (above). Kingsley certainly generated a great deal of publicity for the Maryhill Magyars last year on social media with comments generally along the lines of how much the evil-looking Pokemon doppelganger would scare the children attending games at Firhill. Do these commentators not realise that being exposed to such a creature isn’t half as damaging to a child’s psychological development as having to watch Partick Thistle in the first place?

The idea was dreamed up by artist David Shrigley. Had it been draughted by Joe Schmoe his five year-old daughter would have described it as a shitey attempt at drawing Lisa Simpson. As Shrigley has been nominated for a Turner Prize it gets this comment from the Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones: “Kingsley resembles a grotesque and funny carnival costume. It is reminiscent of the monsters painted and sculpted by the great surrealist Joan Miró, which themselves grew out of European carnival traditions. What Shrigley is doing is to comically express the aggression in sport. The fans are being hypocritical. You want your team to win; there’s yelling, passion, even sometimes – I hear – violence. Come on, this is football, not lawn tennis. Shrigley’s demonic mascot is a fan yelling for its team: its mouth would willingly gobble up the opposition. This is a terrific piece of sporting art – a roaring manifestation of soccer’s energy. Fans are looking at a portrait of themselves and finding it “terrifying”. As Oscar Wilde would have said, it is the rage of Caliban at seeing his own face in the glass.”

Maybe because Oscar never saw any episodes of the Simpsons.

Shrigley himself said of his creation: “He represents the angst of being a football fan – which anyone who has supported Partick Thistle over the last few decades understands.” And indeed, as a fan himself, Shrigley has truly captured something of the essence of being a Thistle supporter; the bad teeth, the monobrow and the open mouthed raging at every decision that goes against the Jags.

He goes on: “People are saying: ‘He’s terrible, he’s a disgrace to the good name of mascots.’ Do mascots have a good name? Do they have a union? If you look on the internet, as I did yesterday, you can find a far scarier mascot.”

That much is true. Even a cursory search will throw up all kinds of monstrosities. My own favourite is this one from the University of Wichita which is allegedly a stick of corn (for some reason) but which seems to have been modelled on TV celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, perhaps during his self-proclaimed days as a leg-ned in goal for the mighty Glasgow Rangers, back in the days when they still existed.

earwig ramsay

It’s not too difficult to picture him here shouting at Craigy Paterson to mark his man as the ball sails over his head into the back of the net.

With regard to the question of whether mascots have a good name or not, if it please the court may I refer the jury to the defendants in the dock, namely the Paisley Panda, Tonasaurus and Sammy the Tammy.

A succession of Love Street loons donned the moth-eaten panda outfit around the turn of the millennium, each seemingly hell-bent not so much on high fiving and cuddling kiddies but on winding up opposition supporters to the point of apoplexy. Like Sevco, the guy inside the suit would be sacked for going too far only for another nutter to reappear in the costume a week later to continue – or indeed escalate – the aberrant behaviour. Morton supporters visiting Paisley were a particular target, taunted as they were from trackside with giant air fresheners, scrubbing brushes and bars of soap.

Not that the Morton mascot, Tonosaurus, was happy to take this lying down. He would cheerfully eschew the high fiving and cuddling in favour of kicking a toy panda around the pitch before stringing it up lynching-style with a noose improvised from a Morton scarf.

The end for one of the panda’s occupants came when he simulated wiping his arse with a Falkirk tracksuit in front of visiting Bairns supporters who subsequently complained to St.Mirren.

In England the reputation of football mascots has been further enhanced by the antics of such cuddly high-fivers as Bury’s Robbie the Bobby, somewhat ironically named after Sir Robert Peel, born in nearby Ramsbottom in 1788. He first received his marching orders after mooning at Stoke City fans then compounded his felony a few weeks after receiving an official warning by ripping the ears off Peterborough’s rabbit mascot, Peter Burrow. Before a particularly important match against Cardiff at Gigg Lane Robbie let the pressure get to him and let fly at  Bartley the Bluebird. The ensuing fight had to be broken up by a dozen stewards and some of Sir Robert’s erstwhile constabulary.

“When I realised Bartley wasn’t playing, I clouted him a couple of times and then ripped his head off,” the amateur boxer inside the cuddly suit told the Manchester Evening News.

To round off this briefest of glimpses into the bizarre world of unruly football mascots we return closer to home and the aforementioned Sammy the Tammy, Dunfermline mascot. Sammy’s claim to infamy took place a few years ago at half-time during a match against local rivals Raith Rovers. Visiting fans were left slack-jawed when the Pars’ mascot ventured onto the pitch heading for the centre circle in a cardboard tank. It looked like something that Field Marshall Rommell would have had kids making if he’d been a presenter of the Third Reich’s version of Blue Peter.

earwig sammy

To the accompaniment of shell noises and explosions being broadcast on the East End Park tannoy system, Sammy simulated mowing down the Raith supporters with imaginary salvos from his cardboard 88mm howitzer. Subtle it wasn’t.

Can you imagine the reaction in the Daily Record if Hoopy the Huddle Hound had pulled a similar stunt while Rangers were still alive? The Scottish Parliament would have gone into emergency session and Neil Lennon would have been sent to Barlinnie for life.

Not that I’m suggesting Hoopy would have thought of such a thing. Vince the Parrot though… *

Toodloo the Noo

* More on Vince in the next issue of NTV.

earwig teacake

Above: Leigh Griffiths’ mascot fantasy – a dancing Tunnock’s Teacake.

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